On 23 January 2023, a local pig abattoir was sentenced in the Kingaroy Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty that exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.
Between March and June 2021, the company approved the use of Protexit, an acid cleaner, for use in a manual descaling process of its scalding cabin. When workers were using the chemical, they were given the direction not to kneel in the cabin. PPE that was provided to staff included cotton coveralls, oil and chemical resistant boots, chemical resistant gloves, a poncho, goggles, head covering, breathing protection, knee pads and a chemical resistant apron. Relevantly, PPE did not include chemical resistant pants and the cotton coveralls did not resist absorption of Protexit.
On 27 June 2021, a worker sustained burns to his right knee after inadvertent contact with the acid solution. After washing his knee for some minutes, he returned to work and at the end of his shift received first aid. The next day, he returned to work and saw a nurse and subsequently a doctor. He was later admitted to hospital where he underwent a debridement procedure as he sustained two partial thickness burns to his right knee.
On 28 June 2021, another worker was descaling the cabin with Protexit. As he climbed out of the cabin, he felt a stinging sensation in his knees. He received two minor superficial burns to his knees that had been caused from Protexit permeating his uniform. He washed his knees for 15 minutes, received first aid and did not require further treatment.
In sentencing, Magistrate Sinclair took into account the nature of the injuries suffered by the two workers and that they could have been prevented by the company providing chemical resistant pants. The Magistrate took into account the company’s record and cooperation with Work Health and Safety Qld, its expression of remorse, and its entry of an early plea. The Magistrate also considered the steps taken by the company to reduce the risk of injury and its corporate character in the local community but otherwise observed that the type of injury sustained by the workers was an obvious risk. The Magistrate also observed that the company owed its safety obligations pursuant to the Work Health and Safety Act in all processes in place and in use at its business.
The Magistrate determined that a fine in the order of $25,000 would provide adequate deterrence and reflect the seriousness of the charge. No convictions were recorded.
OWHSP contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sections 19(1), 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011